05/14/2014 05:38 EDT | Updated 07/14/2014 05:59 EDT

We're Living in the Age of the "Terrarist"

Journalist Tom Englehart identifies the CEOs of energy giants such as Exxon, BP and Shell as "terrarists." He notes, there isn't a word for the ruin of the Earth and suggests "terracide" from the Latin word for earth.

Bjorn Holland via Getty Images

Journalist Tom Englehart wrote an incisive essay in the investigative journalism magazine, Mother Jones, in May 2013 in which he noted that there are words like genocide for the destruction of a racial or ethnic group. Ecocide describes the destruction of the environment. But, he notes, there isn't a word for the ruin of the Earth and suggests "terracide" from the Latin word for earth.

Englehart identifies the CEOs of energy giants such as Exxon, BP and Shell as "terrarists." "You can take one thing for granted: not a single terrarist will ever go to jail, and yet they certainly knew what they were doing. You're the one who's going to pay, especially your children and grandchildren."

At the ExxonMobil AGM in May 2013, Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson said that an economy that runs on oil is here to stay and that cutting carbon emissions would do no good. The king of the terrarists, who made $34.9 million in 2011, asked his acolytes a rhetorical question: "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?" The assembled Exxon faithful then went on to defeat, for the seventh time, by a margin of three-to-one, resolutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Englehart muses:

"If the oil execs aren't terrarists, then who is? And if that doesn't make the big energy companies criminal enterprises, then how would you define that term? To destroy our planet with malice aforethought, with only the most immediate profits on the brain, with only your own comfort and well-being (and those of your shareholders) in mind: Isn't that the ultimate crime? Isn't that terracide?"

There's a Buddhist quote about greed that goes far to explain the behaviour of the terrarists; the five desires (wealth, lust, fame, food and sleep) are like brine -- the more you drink the thirstier you become. Our greed is as deep as the ocean; you can never get to the bottom of it.

A higher-profile terrarist is mega-rich industrialist David Koch. One of Koch's first contributions to the American democratic process was in 1980 when he ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket. One of his more recent contributions came in 2012 when he spent millions trying to buy the U.S. presidency for the doomed Mitt Romney.

Koch, who is worth $31 billion, has a pet political organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP). In December 2012 the AFP told Congress not to vote for a federal aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy, warning on its website that "Americans for Prosperity will include this vote in our congressional scorecard." Which means legislators who vote for the bill risk a torrent of attack ads in their next election.

Charles and David rule an empire that spews 100 million tonnes of carbon every year into the air we breathe. Since 1997, these beauties have secretly funneled $61.5 million to climate change-denial groups. They also gave millions to the far right-wing Tea Party to fight President Obama's health care reform. One of the world's largest privately held conglomerates; Koch Industries has its talons in timber, oil refining, ethanol production, chemicals, pipelines, consumer products and fertilizer.

This is an excerpt from Capt. Trevor Greene's new, self-published book, There Is No Planet B: Promise And Peril On Our Warming World.

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